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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
EU / NATO

Talks in Brussels to Precede Vienna Negotiations

European Union Deputy Secretary-General Enrique Mora traveled to Tehran Oct. 14 to discuss the resumption of negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but it appears that Iran is still not ready to resume indirect talks with the United States. Mora coordinated the first six rounds of discussions in Vienna aimed to revive the accord, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Negotiations have remained stalled since the sixth round concluded in June 2021. Mora met with Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani to review Iran’s plans to resume...

Iran, IAEA Reach Access Agreement

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached an agreement Sept. 12 that will allow agency inspectors to access remote monitoring equipment at certain nuclear facilities in Iran to service the units and install new data storage. The agreement likely staved off an IAEA Board of Governors resolution censuring Iran for failing to cooperate with the agency. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Sept. 8 that “unconstructive” action from the board could “disrupt” negotiations in Vienna to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Talks...

IAEA Report on Iran Raises Serious Concerns About Monitoring

The most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear program paints a bleak picture of the agency’s current ability to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activities and the new Iranian government’s willingness to cooperate with the agency. Newly inaugurated Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi may think intransigence and ambiguity over the status of Iran’s nuclear program will build leverage in negotiations to bring Tehran and Washington back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal—which would reimpose on Iran the most stringent monitoring regime ever negotiated—but his...

IAEA Report on Iran Raises Serious Concerns About Monitoring

The most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear program paints a bleak picture of the agency’s current ability to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activities and the new Iranian government’s willingness to cooperate with the agency. Newly inaugurated Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi may think intransigence and ambiguity over the status of Iran’s nuclear program will build leverage in negotiations to bring Tehran and Washington back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal—which would reimpose on Iran the most stringent monitoring regime ever negotiated—but his...

Raisi Pledges Return to Nuclear Talks

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi pledged to pursue “smart engagement” in order to lift sanctions on Iran during his Aug. 5 inauguration speech. Raisi characterized the U.S. sanctions as oppressive and said his government would support “a diplomatic plan that achieves this goal,” likely referring to efforts to restore U.S. and Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He also said that Iran’s nuclear program is “completely peaceful” and reiterated the official line that “Iran has placed a religious ban on nuclear weapons.” Talks to...

New Iranian President May Prolong Deal Talks

Iran’s president-elect Ebrahim Raisi has expressed support for returning Iran to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal if U.S. sanctions are verifiably lifted. Raisi’s election, however, appears to be responsible for delaying the resumption of talks in Vienna to restore the accord as the president-elect’s advisers are reviewing the progress that negotiators made in the first six rounds of talks. The sixth round concluded June 20, two days after the election, and it is still unclear when the seventh round will commence. Raisi’s position on the nuclear deal is consistent with the position taken...

NATO Highlights Concerns With China, Russia


July/August 2021
By Hollis Rammer

Leaders of the 30 member countries of NATO expressed concerns about China’s expanding influence and emphasized their support for further arms control measures between the United States and Russia during their June 14 summit in Brussels.

U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) talk at a memorial for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States after the June 14 NATO summit in Brussels. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)“All leaders agreed that, in an age of global competition, Europe and North America must stand strong together in NATO to defend our values and our interests, especially at a time when authoritarian regimes like Russia and China challenge the rules-based order,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the conclusion of the meeting.

The 2021 summit communiqué states that “China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an alliance.” Although NATO leaders stopped short of declaring China a rival, their commitment to “engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the alliance” represents a shift from previous statements that did not mention China at all.

The communiqué also condemns “Russia’s aggressive actions [that] constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security” and says NATO “remains clear-eyed about the challenges Russia poses.” The document specifically cites concerns about Russia’s arsenal of nonstrategic nuclear weapons and deployment of the 9M729, a ground-launched cruise missile that the alliance says is a violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

In addition, NATO leaders reiterated that the alliance has “no intention to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.” The communiqué repeated NATO’s stance that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a moratorium on missiles formerly banned by the INF Treaty is “not credible and not acceptable.” Putin first made the proposal following the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty in 2019 and has since expanded it to include mutual verification measures. (See ACT, January/February and November 2020.)

The NATO document also reaffirmed the alliance’s opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, describing it as “inconsistent with the alliance’s nuclear deterrence policy” and “at odds with the existing non-proliferation and disarmament architecture.” In a change from previous statements, however, the communiqué called on partners to “reflect realistically on the ban treaty’s impact on international peace and security,” including on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In addition, the heads of state reinforced NATO’s status as a nuclear alliance, stating that “given the deteriorating security environment in Europe, a credible and united nuclear alliance is essential” and that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

Prior to the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden met with Stoltenberg to reiterate the U.S. commitment to the alliance, namely Article 5 of the NATO Charter. Article 5 declares that an attack on one member state will be seen as an attack on all and that such an attack will be met with a collective response. This represents a major shift from the rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump, who frequently referred to the alliance as “obsolete.”

At a summit in Brussels, NATO leaders expressed concern about China’s expanding influence.

 

EU Confident in Iran Deal Restoration

June 2021
By Kelsey Davenport

Talks to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal appear to be gaining momentum, as a number of negotiators believe that an understanding is within reach.

Josep Borell, European Union Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and his team report that “an agreement is shaping up” in talks on a U.S. return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and lifting of related sanctions, in conjunction with the resumption of nuclear commitments under the deal by Iran. (Photo:  Thierry Monasse#51SY ED/Getty Images)Enrique Mora, the lead negotiator for the European Union and coordinator of the indirect talks between the United States and Iran, said on May 19 that he is “quite sure there will be a final agreement” that restores the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

Speaking to reporters in Vienna, he said that the talks are “on the right track.”

The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran in violation of the accord. Beginning the following year, Iran began to take a series of retaliatory steps to breach its commitments under the nuclear deal. The two countries are now engaged in indirect talks to restore the multilateral agreement. The other parties to the deal—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—are also participating in the Vienna talks. 

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, tweeted on May 19 that significant progress was made and the parties to the deal all believe an agreement is “within reach.” He expressed hope that the next round of talks “will be final.”

Iranian negotiators also struck a positive tone. Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s lead negotiator, told Iranian state TV on May 19 that “the framework and structure of the agreement has been defined” but certain clauses are still being discussed. 

Other diplomats struck a less optimistic tone. In a May 19 statement, France, Germany, and the UK said that there are still “very difficult issues ahead” and warned against underestimating those challenges. 

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter said in a May 19 press briefing that the fourth round of talks “helped to crystalize choices that may be made by Iran, as well as by the United States,” to return to mutual compliance.

Although the United States and Iran have expressed support for returning to compliance with the nuclear deal, certain technical details have proved challenging.

Iran, for instance, has insisted that all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the United States withdrew from the deal in May 2018, including the non-nuclear sanctions, be lifted. That is necessary, Iran has argued, for Tehran to receive sanctions benefits envisioned by the deal. Critics of the nuclear deal in the United States have opposed lifting these measures. 

On May 20, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on state television that the “main” sanctions issues “have been wrapped up,” including those affecting the oil, petrochemical, shipping, and banking sectors.

Another challenge has been the future of Iran’s advanced centrifuges. In response to the U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions in violation of the nuclear deal, Iran has introduced into use hundreds of advanced centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, in excess of the nuclear deal’s limits. 

Advanced centrifuges pose a proliferation risk because they enrich uranium more efficiently. The machines can be dismantled or destroyed to bring Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal’s limits, but Iran has gained knowledge from operating these machines that cannot be reversed. 

Officials did not comment on whether this issue has been resolved.

The E.U. reports an agreement is shaping up to return the U.S. and Iran to their 2015 deal.

Parties Make Progress on Iran Deal Restoration

The United States, Iran, and the other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal expressed varying degrees of optimism over the progress made during recent talks in Vienna on the necessary steps to restore full implementation of the accord. The parties met April 15-20 and are set to return to Vienna next week for further discussions on the steps necessary to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The United States and Iran are still not talking directly, which has slowed the process, but EU political...

Restoring the Nuclear Deal with Iran Benefits U.S. Nonproliferation Priorities

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Volume 13, Issue 1, March 15, 2021

Iran has systematically breached key limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced in May 2019 that Tehran would reduce compliance with the accord. Iran’s decision to violate the multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was a direct response to former President Donald Trump’s decision a year earlier to withdraw from the accord and reimpose sanctions in violation of U.S. obligations.

Iran’s nuclear program does not currently pose an immediate proliferation risk and there is no indication from U.S. intelligence that Iran has resumed weaponization-related activities, but its breaches are becoming increasingly more serious and difficult—if not impossible—to fully reverse.

While these breaches are troubling, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has gone to great lengths to keep the door open to restore full implementation of the nuclear deal and reverse Iran’s violations, if the United States lifts sanctions in compliance with its obligations under the accord.

Time is short, however, as both the Biden and Rouhani administrations face considerable domestic pressure opposing restoration of the accord. Neither wants to be perceived as making the first move or making a unilateral concession.

President Joe Biden’s failure to take early action to send a signal of U.S. good faith intentions also appears to have spurred debate in Tehran over whether or not he is serious about his stated approach of “compliance for compliance” to restore the nuclear deal, or if he intends to try and renegotiate the terms of the agreement.

Biden faces pressure from policymakers, particularly opponents of the JCPOA in Congress, to use the Trump administration’s sanctions to leverage additional concessions from Iran on a range of issues. This rhetoric further reinforces doubts in Tehran about Biden’s intentions to restore the deal. However, the idea that the Trump administration’s sanctions have created viable leverage to pressure Iran to make further concessions fails to take into account that U.S. credibility was severely diminished by Trump’s reimposition of sanctions in violation of the deal. There is little support for reimposed U.S. sanctions, which are perceived as jeopardizing an agreement that advanced global nonproliferation interests, and Iran has no interest in new negotiations until the nuclear deal is restored.

If the JCPOA collapses and Iran continues to ratchet up its nuclear activities, some U.S. allies and partners may join a U.S. pressure campaign, but the Biden administration would be hard-pressed to reconstitute the level of international support seen before the negotiations on the JCPOA. Russia and China in particular would be unlikely to support a pressure-based approach after Trump’s treatment of the nuclear deal, barring a clear indication that Iran intended to pursue nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Iran can also ratchet up its nuclear activities far more quickly than the United States could attempt to restore international support for sanctions and diplomatic isolation, giving Tehran its own leverage.

A quick, complete compliance-for-compliance restoration of the JCPOA remains the best option to roll back Iran’s nuclear program, create the time and space for future negotiations on a range of issues, and restore U.S. credibility.

The EU, as the convenor of the negotiations on the JCPOA, is the logical choice to coordinate steps by both sides to resume full implementation of their JCPOA obligations and appears willing to take on that role. Concrete action by the United States to support its stated preference for returning to the deal may help pave the way for an EU-led approach, but with increasingly serious violations of the JCPOA on the horizon and Iran’s presidential elections in June, time is short. It may behoove the EU to present a proposal of its own detailing the necessary reciprocal steps for the United States and Iran to meet their JCPOA obligations.

Failure to restore the deal risks Tehran taking further steps that increase the risk posed by its nuclear program and igniting a destabilizing nuclear competition in the region, both of which would set back U.S security interests and international nonproliferation priorities.

Maximum Pressure Triggered Nuclear Breaches

Under the JCPOA Iran is subject to stringent limitations on its nuclear program and intrusive monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, the P5+1 (the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany, the EU, and, formerly, the United States) committed to waiving sanctions imposed on Iran. The United Nations Security Council also endorsed the deal in Resolution 2231 (2015), which lifted certain UN sanctions on Iran and levied restrictions on Iranian conventional arms and ballistic missile transfers.

Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018— despite acknowledging Iran’s compliance with the multilateral agreement and over the objections of key U.S. allies. Trump also ordered the reimposition of sanctions that had been lifted or waived under the JCPOA, violating U.S. obligations under the accord. From May 2018 until Trump left office in Jan. 2021, the administration continued to aggressively deny Iran any benefit of remaining in compliance with the nuclear deal and actively opposed efforts by the remaining parties to the deal to engage in legitimate trade with Iran and complete cooperative nuclear projects—even those that benefited U.S. nonproliferation priorities.

The failure of the remaining parties to the JCPOA to deliver on sanctions relief in the year after U.S. withdrawal drove Rouhani to announce in May 2019 that Iran would begin violating the JCPOA. He said Iran would continue to ratchet up its nuclear activities until sanctions relief in oil sales, banking transactions, and other areas of commerce were restored.

For nearly a year following Rouhani’s May 2019 announcement, Iran systematically announced new breaches to the JCPOA’s limits on uranium enrichment, research and development on advanced centrifuges, and stockpile size. Those breaches were carefully calibrated, overseen by IAEA inspectors, and were largely reversible, supporting Rouhani’s assertion that all JCPOA violations taken by Iran are about pressuring parties to the deal to deliver on sanctions relief and not intended to collapse the deal or impede a full restoration of the deal’s limits down the road.

In Dec. 2020, the Iranian parliament and Guardian Council approved a bill calling on the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to significantly ramp up certain nuclear activities in violation of the deal. That law, hastened by the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, went into effect Dec. 23. The actions required by the nuclear law, some of which have already begun, pose a more serious risk to the JCPOA. The new law, for instance, requires Iran to take significant steps to ratchet up its uranium enrichment program, such as boosting enrichment levels to 20 percent uranium-235—a purity Iran had not reached since 2013 when Tehran agreed to cap enrichment amid JCPOA negotiations. The law also includes new breaches, including suspending more intrusive monitoring activities and beginning the production of uranium metal, which would be more difficult to reverse.

To date, between the breaches announced in 2019 and steps taken in line with the Dec. 2020 legislation Iran has:

  1. Breached stockpile limits of 300 kilograms of uranium gas and 130 metric tons of heavy water;
  2. Enriched uranium above the 3.67 percent uranium-235 limit set by the deal;
  3. Operated advanced centrifuges in excess of the JCPOA’s limits and used certain models to produce enriched uranium in violation of the accord;
  4. Resumed enrichment at the Fordow facility in violation of the deal;
  5. Abandoned operational restrictions on its uranium enrichment program;
  6. Suspended the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement and JCPOA-specific monitoring measures (a special arrangement with the IAEA is in place); and
  7. Produced gram quantities of natural uranium metal and begun work on a uranium metal production plant (the plant is not yet operational).

(For more information on the status of Iran’s violations of the JCPOA see “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action At A Glance.”)

Heightened but Manageable Proliferation Risk—For Now

In total, Iran’s violations have increased the proliferation risk posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s activities to ratchet up its uranium enrichment capacity have reduced the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for one bomb from about 12 months (when the nuclear deal is fully implemented) to about three months, as of Feb. 2021. That breakout time will continue to shorten if Iran installs and brings online advanced centrifuges, as required by the 2020 nuclear law, and its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 20 percent continues to grow.

The Dec. 2020 nuclear law requirements stipulating that Iran stockpile uranium enriched to 20 percent and install and operate advanced centrifuges, in particular, accelerate the decrease in breakout. Iran’s advanced machines are much more efficient than the IR-1s to which Iran is limited to using under the JCPOA. The IR-2m centrifuge is estimated to be about three to four times more efficient than the IR-1 and the IR-6 an estimated seven to eight times more efficient. In total, if Iran operates 1,000 IR-2s (about half of which are already enriching) and 1,000 IR-6s (as required by the end of 2021 under the law), in addition to the 6,104 IR-1s already enriching uranium, Iran’s enrichment capacity will increase by about threefold.

Enriching to 20 percent also increases proliferation risk, as that level constitutes about 90 percent of the work necessary to enrich to weapons-grade (above 90 percent uranium-235). Once Iran has accumulated enough 20 percent enriched gas for a bomb, about 250 kilograms (or about 170 kilograms by weight), it could likely produce what is known as a significant quantity of nuclear material (one bomb’s worth, or 25 kilograms of uranium enriched to greater than 90 percent) in less than two months given its current enrichment capacity. As of mid-February, Iran had about 17 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent (by weight) and it intends to produce 120 kilograms (by weight) during 2021, suggesting that Iran will not reach a bomb’s worth of 20 percent material before the end of the year at the current pace.

The decrease in breakout time is a concern. But even if Iran decided to pursue nuclear weapons, it is unlikely that Iran would withdraw from the JCPOA and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to produce just one bomb, particularly given that Tehran has never tested a nuclear device. Any such move would be met by swift international condemnation and the reimposition of sanctions. Iran has uranium enriched to less than 5 percent that, when enriched to weapons-grade, would be enough for a second bomb, but it would take another two to three months. Then Iran would need to covert and weaponize the material—a process that could take another year to 18 months.

The 12-month breakout time can be restored relatively quickly by reversing Iran’s breaches of the uranium enrichment limits—a process that could itself likely be accomplished in under three months with significant political will. Enriched uranium above the 300-kilogram stockpile limit can be quickly shipped out or blended down to natural levels, excess machines dismantled and stored, enrichment halted at Fordow, and enrichment levels dialed back to 3.67 percent uranium-235. Knowledge gained by operating advanced centrifuges is not reversible, but the excess machines themselves will be dismantled and stored under IAEA seal, so Iran will not be able to access them without inspectors knowing. Furthermore, the efficiency of the advanced machines can be taken into account in calculating and determining an acceptable breakout time in follow-up negotiations.

Work on uranium metal is more problematic. The JCPOA bans uranium metal production for 15 years because of its applicability to weapons development. While Iran claims it is pursuing uranium metal for reactor fuel, the knowledge gained would still be relevant to weaponization processes.

Though it is widely suspected that Iran experimented with uranium metal as part of its pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, it does not appear to have significant experience with large-scale production and much of the experimentation appears to have been done with surrogate metals. Restoring the JCPOA’s limits before Iran gains that valuable and irreversible expertise with metal production would benefit long-term U.S. nonproliferation priorities.

The risk posed by these breaches is further amplified by Iran’s decision to suspend the more intrusive monitoring mechanisms required by the JCPOA, including the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. Inspectors will still be in place and have access to sites where Iran produces and stores its nuclear material as part of Iran’s legally required safeguards agreement under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

However, the suspension of the more intrusive measures could create gaps in the IAEA’s understanding of Iran’s nuclear program, as the additional protocol gives inspectors regular access to all facilities that support the nuclear program and complimentary access to follow up on concerns about undeclared nuclear activities. Decreased access will make it more difficult to monitor Iran’s breaches of the deal and likely increase speculation about illicit nuclear activities.

Iran and the IAEA did agree to a special three-month technical arrangement Feb. 21—two days before Iran’s suspension of the measures—that will allow certain agency monitoring beyond Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement. Iran also committed to collect certain information relevant to the additional protocol—including tapes of continuous surveillance activities—and hand that information over to the IAEA upon sanctions relief.

Ideally, the hand-over of information will allow for inspectors to reconstruct Iran’s nuclear program during the three-month period and will mitigate any speculation of illicit activities in the absence of stringent IAEA oversight. However, the special arrangement is not a viable solution in the long term, particularly if any concerns emerge about illicit activities and materials, but it does manage the risk and buy time for diplomatic action to restore the JCPOA.

Restoring Mutual Compliance with the 2015 Nuclear Deal

Although Iran’s systematic breaches of JCPOA limits constitute serious violations of the agreement, the deal itself has proven to be an effective, verifiable arrangement when it is fully implemented. It is possible to restore the deal’s nonproliferation benefits—but only if the parties to the deal act swiftly to fully implement the JCPOA’s obligations.

There is no indication at this point that Iran is pursuing or intends to pursue nuclear weapons, but the violations have increased speculation about illicit nuclear activities and worn the patience of the European members of the deal. E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) frustration was manifest in a recent gratuitous attempt to censure Iran for its suspension of the additional protocol during the March meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors. While the E3 concern about the decrease in monitoring is warranted, pursuing the resolution risked the special technical arrangement and the space for Iran, the United States, and the parties to the JCPOA to meet to discuss restoring the accord.

Returning to full implementation of the deal will require coordination by the United States and Iran. Unsurprisingly, while both U.S. President Joe Biden and Rouhani support a restoration of the JCPOA and a mutual return to full compliance, neither wants to be perceived as acting first or unilaterally. Both appear interested in partaking in discussions facilitated by the EU, which the EU appears eager to do, but creating the necessary political conditions for all sides to accept an invitation remains a challenge.

Given that the Trump administration triggered this crisis—namely by reimposing sanctions in violation of the deal— and provoked Iran’s violations of the accord, further signaling by the Biden administration of U.S. good faith could promote an environment conducive to coordinating restoration of the nuclear deal. Biden’s failure to act early upon taking office in Jan. 2021 prompted concern in Tehran that the new U.S. president was not serious about restoring the deal as is, and that he might try to renegotiate it—a position unacceptable to Tehran.

To date, the Biden administration has insisted that it will not grant sanctions relief before talks on restoring full compliance with the deal. But the White House could take steps to signal good faith, such as reinstating waivers for JCPOA-required nonproliferation projects that would help facilitate Iran’s eventual return to compliance and more definitive action in support of humanitarian efforts. Such steps could help restore confidence in Tehran that Biden is serious about restoring the JCPOA and demonstrate that the United States acknowledges Rouhani’s efforts to keep the window open for diplomacy.

Failure to act swiftly risks the JCPOA collapsing. A collapsed JCPOA would have severe implications for regional stability and international security, as Iran’s program would be unrestrained and subject to far less monitoring at a time when the United States faces a significant credibility deficit.

Even in the absence of the accord, it is highly unlikely that Iran would make the decision to pursue nuclear weapons, but restricted IAEA monitoring and no limits on uranium enrichment would raise speculation over covert Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions. This could spur other states in the region to match Iran’s perceived nuclear capabilities or attempt a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities—an act that would only set back the program and be more likely to spur Tehran to pursue nuclear weapons to deter future attacks. Dissolution of the JCPOA would also significantly compromise the likelihood of Iran engaging in future nuclear nonproliferation agreements.

It is critical that the Biden administration not miss this window to restore the nonproliferation benefits of the JCPOA and use it as a platform for future diplomatic engagement.—JULIA MASTERSON, research assistant, and KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

 

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Iran has breached key limits of the JCPOA since May 2019, gradually increasing the proliferation risk posed by its civilian nuclear program. Taken together, Iran's systematic and provocative violations of the nuclear deal are cause for concern and jeopardize the future of the deal. 

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